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OVERVIEW

The proposed SURF! Busway and Bus Rapid Transit project is part of Monterey-Salinas Transit’s (MST) larger efforts in connecting communities, creating opportunity, and being kind to our planet. We are building a modern transit network to enhance connections on the Monterey Peninsula and beyond.

What’s included:

  • A six-mile, bus-only route parallel to Highway 1, from Marina to Sand City and Seaside.
  • Bicycle and pedestrian path improvements along Del Monte Road and Beach Range Road.
  • A new mobility hub near 5th Street in Marina, east of Highway 1. This station will include bus bays, safe drop-off areas, appropriately lit public parking, and other convenient first- and last-mile amenities.
  • New transit stops at Del Monte Boulevard and Palm Avenue in Marina and California Avenue and Playa Avenue in Sand City.
  • Improved intersection at Playa and California in Sand City for better traffic flow on city streets.

Early planning and environmental review for the SURF! project is now complete. Detailed design has begun. Hop on board and help shape the future of SURF! by visiting our Community Input Hub.

 

PROJECT BENEFITS

From idea to implementation, every stage of the SURF! project has been carefully guided by MST’s fundamental vision. We create better ways for people to get to work, school, and healthcare while advancing social equity and caring for our planet.

Here’s how SURF! fits into our vision:

Connecting Communities

When complete, SURF! will serve as a vital transit link for the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley. Many existing transit lines — including the JAZZ bus rapid transit (BRT) line that serves Seaside, Line 20 Salinas-Monterey, and other routes that serve the VA Clinic and CSUMB — will use or connect to service along the SURF! line.

SURF! will also make it faster and easier to travel from the Salinas Valley and southern Monterey County all the way to downtown Monterey via future rapid transit along U.S. 101. Whether riding to get to work, school, medical appointments, shop for groceries, or simply to visit a friend, the SURF! line will keep our community connected. And by providing more frequent and dependable transit options for those who don’t, can’t, or just don’t want to drive — including individuals with disabilities, veterans, and seniors — SURF! will better serve the Monterey Peninsula’s diverse communities.

Creating Opportunity

The six-mile, bus-only corridor is a direct connection from Marina to Seaside and Sand City, with connections to downtown Monterey and New Monterey, providing better access to business, shopping, and education.

SURF! creates a faster, lower-cost option for commuting from affordable housing to major job and educational centers, supporting the diverse populations of Monterey County and unlocking economic potential for years to come. The project supports and enhances communities along and beyond the corridor, like the City of Marina and their Downtown Vitalization Plan – where access to faster, better quality public transportation will provide residents and visitors more opportunities to enjoy all of what the new and improved downtown will have to offer.

In terms of hard numbers, the SURF! project is expected to return $250 million in economic benefits and create 650 jobs for the Monterey Peninsula.

Being Kind to Our Planet

MST expects the SURF! project to result in over 500,000 fewer vehicle trips per year, a net decrease of more than 1,200 metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is great news for our planet!

MST is also partnering with California State Parks and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District to aid protection and restoration efforts of sand dune areas near the project. Trees and vegetation removed during construction will be carefully replaced, preserving the region’s beautiful vistas for everyone to enjoy. Mitigation steps will exceed what is required by regulatory agencies and will result in a healthier community for everyone and everything – people and plants alike.

Other environmental benefits of the project:

  • Use of zero-emission buses will reduce both air pollution and the noise of traditional diesel buses.
  • Fewer vehicles overall will reduce the amount of microplastics and pollutants that flow into the Monterey Bay.
  • New bicycle trail connections and improvements to the Monterey Bay Recreational Trail for SURF! line users and recreationists.

 

COMMUNITY INPUT

Community input is a vital part of MST’s mission to build a transit network that works for everyone. MST and the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) have conducted significant research to learn community and stakeholder preferences for transit service along the SURF! corridor. In 2019, MST and TAMC hosted or participated in over 60 meetings with stakeholders and community members. In 2021, an online community survey was launched and indicated overall support for the project.

What we have heard from you so far:

  • Desire for more and better-timed connections between transit lines.
  • Desire for improved bus stop facilities, including real-time transit information, ticket vending, and restrooms at stops.
  • Preservation of nearby bike facilities and trail access.
  • Priority for environmental considerations, including air and noise pollution and preservation of Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

In 2022, MST is seeking public participation and input on the key design areas of the SURF! project. There are already several ways to get involved, and we will continue to roll out more tools and events as the project progresses.

 

WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

Visit the SURF! Community Input Hub

The SURF! Community Input Hub serves as the central site for all our public and community involvement efforts on the SURF! project.

The Hub includes a variety of fun ways to comment on the design, sign up for upcoming events (both online and in-person), and join the conversation to shape the future of SURF!

MST will be hosting a series of public meetings and events throughout our community. A full list of upcoming events and directions to attend are available on the SURF! Community Input Hub.

Contact Us

Questions, comments, and public input on the SURF! project or its key design areas can also be submitted via phone, email, or mail via the following methods:

  • By phone: 888-MST-BUS1 (1-888-678-2871)
  • By email: customerservice@mst.org
  • By mail: Monterey-Salinas Transit
    19 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite 200
    Monterey CA 93940

 

PARTNERS

MST is coordinating closely with many federal, state, and local agencies and organizations, including:

  • U.S. Federal Transit Administration
  • Caltrans
  • California Coastal Commission
  • Cities of Marina, Seaside, and Sand City
  • Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC)
  • California State Parks
  • Interested environmental, social equity, and community organizations

 

FUNDING

TAMC will provide $15 million in project support through Monterey County’s Transportation Safety & Investment Plan (Measure X) funds approved by a supermajority of voters in 2016.

MST was awarded a $2.5 M earmark from Senator John Laird in the state budget and a $25 M grant from the State’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), closing the funding gap for construction. MST is seeking the remaining amount from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, and State Active Transportation Program.



PROJECT FAQs

What is the SURF! Busway and Bus Rapid Transit project?

The SURF! project is the latest project in Monterey-Salinas Transit’s (MST) ongoing effort to modernize the Monterey Peninsula’s transit network. The project includes two components:

  1. Infrastructure. A six-mile, bus-only roadway parallel to a heavily congested segment of Highway 1, from Marina to Sand City and Seaside. New bus stations and facilities will be added along with an extension of the popular bicycle and walking path on Beach Range Road in Sand City and Marina.The SURF! busway and stations will be built on old rail line property. The Monterey Branch Line linked the Peninsula with San Francisco from 1880 to 1971. In 2003, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) purchased the unused line to preserve it as a transportation corridor.
  2. Transit Service. Bus service on the bus-only lane will allow passengers using Line 20 (MST’s most heavily used transit line) and any other bus service traveling between Salinas, Marina, Seaside, Sand City, and Monterey to quickly travel past Highway 1 traffic. Riders of the new busway and other transit services that connect to Line 20 will have better access to the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), the VA Clinic, coastal access at Fort Ord Dunes State Park, and the communities of the former Fort Ord.

What are some of the benefits of the SURF! project?

The SURF! project is part of MST’s vision to connect communities, create opportunity, and be kind to our planet. When SURF! is complete, bus riders will enjoy equitable access to faster and more affordable transit throughout Monterey County.

Some specific benefits of SURF! include:

  • Zero-emission buses and fewer vehicles on Highway 1 for cleaner air quality and reduction in greenhouse gases.
  • One mile of new recreational trail and safer access to the coast and existing trails along Beach Range Road for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Increased access to work, employment centers, shopping, and education.
  • Well-paid jobs for local employees in the transportation sector.
  • Up to 16 minutes saved per trip when traveling from Salinas to downtown Monterey.
  • Traffic flow improvements using traffic signal priority technology that swiftly moves buses through stoplights between the Marina Transit Exchange and the SURF! busway entrance/exit at Palm and Del Monte in Marina.
  • A new traffic signal at the congested intersection of Playa and California, allowing people to move more quickly through Sand City and Seaside.
  • Reduced amounts of microplastics and pollutants that flow into Monterey Bay from vehicle tires.

How does the project consider bicyclists and pedestrians?

The SURF! project includes several improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. One mile of new bicycle and pedestrian trail connecting to Beach Range Road will be added. The project also includes trail enhancements such as upgraded lighting in urban areas and improved crossings for greater safety at street intersections.

New or improved connections to existing and planned recreational trails are included at:

  • Palm Avenue/Del Monte Boulevard (Marina)
  • 5th Street Station (Marina)
  • California Avenue (Sand City)

Why is the busway located along Highway 1 instead of surface streets?

National and MST surveys of riders and non-riders show that more frequent, faster, and reliable transit service helps to increase ridership. By using the publicly owned railroad corridor (while preserving the railroad tracks for future rail service), SURF! will decrease travel time on the route and encourage more riders to leave Highway 1 than would a slower bus route on local streets.

What about the plans for light rail service?

Light rail remains TAMC’s long-term vision for the Monterey Branch Line corridor. The SURF! Busway project will help build ridership that would make funding a light rail project feasible in the future. One of the major design goals has been to preserve the railroad tracks for future use, while keeping costs minimal.

Isn’t transit use way down due to the pandemic?

Many transit riders have relied on local and regional buses throughout the pandemic and will continue to need affordable travel options. The Monterey Peninsula is a tourist-rich economy; workers that support it cannot work from home. Hotel, restaurant, and service workers rely on public transportation to get to and from work. With widespread vaccination and many residents returning to workplaces and offices, traffic is on the rise on Highway 1.

Additionally, traffic is expected to continue to increase more than 40% over pre-pandemic levels by 2040. The SURF! project takes into consideration the long-term transit needs of the Monterey Peninsula, while not widening Highway 1 which would cause an increase in traffic congestion over time.

Will other vehicles use the busway?

Current plans call for emergency vehicles to be able to use the busway. Other vehicles, including rideshare, carpools and school buses, will benefit from reduced traffic along Highway 1.

What environmental review process is required for this project? Why did MST not submit an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

MST considered pursuing a recently enacted California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review exemption under Senate Bill 288 (SB 288), which exempts certain types of transit projects, including bus rapid transit projects, from CEQA review.

However, in the spirit of public disclosure, MST chose to prepare an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND) as the appropriate CEQA environmental review document, as well as the SB 288 exemption. An EIR could have been prepared instead, but would have allowed significant impacts that MST believes, based on substantial evidence, can be mitigated to less than significant levels.

MST believes that being kind to our planet includes mitigating impacts to less than significant levels. MST is also working with our State and Regional Parks partners and other environmental organizations to further contribute to restoration efforts in coastal dune habitat.

Will views of Monterey Bay be affected?

Motorists and trail users will continue to enjoy the beauty of Monterey Bay, and scenic views will not be negatively affected. The busway lanes will be constructed with a low profile next to existing railroad tracks, and attention has been given to ensure the project will not block or obstruct public viewpoints facing the coast.

New busway lighting will only be added around connection points within urban areas around Palm Avenue/Del Monte Boulevard, 5th Street, and California Avenue. Buses will be infrequent in the evenings and will appear in the same visual plane as vehicles along Highway 1.

Will the project generate noise?

Construction of the busway will produce temporary noise, but contractors will be required to use noise-reducing equipment and work only during established allowed hours to avoid disturbing surrounding areas. Buses will not produce noise at levels that would disrupt the nearest sensitive use areas in the project corridor, including the Fort Ord Dunes campground area. Vehicles on Highway 1 will continue to be the loudest generators of noise along the corridor.

Will the project disturb native plants or create impacts for endangered or threatened species?

In accordance with federal and state regulations, MST has conducted an extensive study on the environmental impacts of SURF! and concluded that we can mitigate all significant environmental impacts from the project. As part of these mitigation efforts, all threatened or endangered species of plants affected during construction will be replaced in other locations with a better opportunity to thrive and support the coastal dune ecosystem. In addition, invasive species, such as ice plants and eucalyptus that threaten local wildlife, will be removed within the areas of construction.

What have MST and TAMC done to hear from the community about this project?

From the initial phases of the SURF! Project in 2019, MST and TAMC have conducted and participated in over 60 meetings with stakeholders and community members. An online survey in February 2021 indicated overall community support for the project. Community input from these meetings and surveys was incorporated by MST to develop a project design with minimal impacts and overall benefits to the environment.

As the SURF! project advances, MST is continuing to roll out new ways to involve the public. The SURF! Community Input Hub includes a suite of fun and intuitive tools for submitting input on the project, including an interactive map and comment form.

Throughout 2022, MST will host a series of public meetings, grassroots events, and meetings with community organizations and resident and business groups to present key design areas and collect public feedback. See the schedule of upcoming events.

How much will the project cost and how will MST pay for it?

MST estimates the construction cost of the SURF! project to be $50M. TAMC will provide $15 million in project support through Transportation Safety & Investment Plan (Measure X) funds approved by a supermajority of voters in 2016. MST was awarded a $2.5 M earmark from Senator John Laird in the state budget and a $25 M grant from the State’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), closing the funding gap for construction. MST is seeking the remaining amount from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, and State Active Transportation Program.

Will the project affect Fort Ord Dunes State Park?

MST is working closely with California State Parks and representatives of the Fort Ord Trail and Greenway project to ensure that there will be no significant environmental impacts to Ford Ord Dunes State Park.

Trees and vegetation will only be removed as necessary for construction and operation along a narrow 100-foot-wide corridor. During construction, MST will work to remove invasive species, and plant native vegetation instead, further protecting the area’s native species and habitats.

MST is also coordinating with State Parks and Regional Parks on restoration efforts within coastal dune areas, creating a win-win for dune habitat.

What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

Bus rapid transit (BRT), also called a busway or transitway, is a bus-based public transport system designed to have better capacity and reliability than a conventional bus system through features including bus-only lanes and priority traffic signaling for better traffic flow through intersections. The BRT system in Monterey County, which includes the existing JAZZ! line, is a core part of MST’s larger efforts to build a modern mobility network to connect our communities.

When will the project be completed?

Currently, the project is in the final design stage, accompanied by a round of public outreach on key design areas throughout 2022 and 2023. Kicking off construction in 2024 would put the SURF! line on track for a 2027 public debut.

 

Informational Materials

 

Environmental Documents